Legislative panel OKs $11M for flu vaccine
State funds would also be used for pandemic response
Lawmakers are advancing a proposal from the Lingle administration to set aside $11 million in state money to stockpile vaccines in preparation for the possibility of a flu pandemic in Hawaii.
The House Health Committee advanced the emergency appropriations bill yesterday after hearing from Gov. Linda Lingle and U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who was in Hawaii meeting with the administration in preparation for a flu summit next month.
"I do commend you and the governor and the leadership for bringing this very complex, important issue to the leadership to make the right decision based on the information that is right for the state of Hawaii," Carmona said. "Every state is different, but it's clear to me that due diligence has been done here."
The Health Committee unanimously advanced Senate Bill 2348, Senate Draft 1, un-amended. It now goes to the Finance Committee.
"Hopefully, with this we can be proactive and be prepared," said Chairman Dennis Arakaki (D, Alewa Heights-Kalihi).
Because the measure already was passed by the Senate, if the Finance Committee makes no changes, the bill could then go to Lingle for her signature.
"We are in an economic situation that gives us the latitude and the luxury to be able to fund prevention measures for something that's getting a lot of international attention right now, and that's the possibility of a flu pandemic," Lingle said.
Lingle, who noted that on a recent trip to Washington she took part in a flu outbreak drill, said her proposal is in line with recommendations made for state at the national level.
The money, which would be given to the state Health Department, would also go toward purchasing mass clinic supplies, laboratory supplies and equipment, personal protective equipment and a data management system for tracking cases and contacts, according to the bill.
Rep. Alex Sonson (D, Pearl City-Waipahu) expressed some concerns over the federal government's ability to supply enough vaccine that would have to be stored and ultimately discarded if not used.
"I think we have to have federal support on this first to ensure that the planning includes looking at what's going to be our resources," Sonson said.
Carmona noted that private pharmaceutical companies supply vaccines, not the government, but added that President Bush supports developing incentives for drug makers to produce more vaccines.
"The president has directed us to look at all opportunities to partner with the private sector to get them back in the business -- to make the market more robust so that we can produce the vaccines that are necessary," he said. "Not just for flu, but for all vaccines."